Arming the Opposition: A Compendium of Failure


A couple of days ago I linked to a Phil Carter piece about why arm-and-train missions in underdeveloped countries tended to fail. Today the New York Times has a longish roundup of our failures, and even I was a little surprised by the sheer number of countries we’ve bungled:

The setbacks have been most pronounced in three countries….Pentagon-trained army and police in Iraq’s Anbar Province….several thousand American-backed government forces and militiamen in Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province….in Syria, a $500 million Defense Department program to train local rebels to fight the Islamic State has produced only a handful of soldiers.

In northwest Africa, the United States has spent more than $600 million….Morocco to Chad. American officials once heralded Mali’s military as an exemplary partner. But in 2012, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in Libya to rout the military, including units trained by United States Special Forces….In Yemen, American-trained troops and counterterrorism forces largely disbanded when Houthi rebels overran the capital last year.

Bright spot….oust the Shabab, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia….The American government has invested nearly $1 billion….But even with the gains, the Shabab have been able to carry out bombings in Mogadishu, the capital, and in neighboring countries, including massacres at a university and a shopping mall in Kenya in the past two years.

Karl Eikenberry, a former military commander and then US ambassador in Afghanistan, sums it up pretty well: “Our track record at building security forces over the past 15 years is miserable.” Maybe it’s time we faced up to this.

Fact:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now